How Successful People Handle Stress

You can't control what happens to you, but you can control how you're going to react to it.

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successful people

We often feel like we’re expected to have all the answers. Competition and pressure to perform can be overwhelming.

The bigger your responsibilities, the bigger the necessity to learn how to handle stress. As a leader, you have the power to set the tone for many other people. The way you handle situations is going to be mirrored by many other people. Within a company, the CEO’s tension is passed on to shareholders, department heads and employees. The atmosphere is set from the top to the bottom.

Successful people know how to deal with many sources of pressure and handle stress like a pro. This behavior ends up working in their favor in many ways. Let’s go over some attitudes that are crucial when it comes to handling stress and setting you up for success:

Use Positive Self-Talk

Self-talk is simply inner dialogue. Successful leaders have total control over this dialogue and use it to their advantage.

Self-talk may be positive or negative, but it must be constructive and grounded in reality. It’s not telling yourself only what you want to hear. It’s not beating yourself up for every little misstep. Rather, it’s an objective look at strengths and weaknesses that helps you improve and move forward with confidence.

Self-blame and pessimism are the enemies of success. Identify those tendencies, and flip them around:

“I tried my best. What did I learn? What will I do differently next time?”

When self-talk is constructive, even personal flaws and professional failures have value.

Keep Things Simple

Technology is an important ally in this day and age, but it can complicate life if we become slaves to it. It leaves us vulnerable to distractions and so-called emergencies that can wait.

One of the secrets of successful people is to start the day away from technology. This means meditating, praying, or walking the dog before you check email or use your phone. You should not let external factors determine your priorities. It is extremely important to take time for yourself and set the tone of your day before you get distracted.

The best way to help you to create that discipline is to write your priorities down. You can write a scrip of your day to start off. That will help you focus on what naturally comes to mind rather than on what technology suggests for you.

Jot down five bullet points for the most important tasks or concerns of the day. Don’t take on more until those are addressed.

Focus on One Thing at a Time

Bill Gates masters this — and Gates says he learned it from Warren Buffett.

It’s easier to focus if you stick to a schedule and compartmentalize tasks for each day. For example, you might save two mornings a week for meetings. Schedule blocks of time just for answering emails or engaging with clients.

It’s hard to focus and prioritize if you can’t see everything that needs to be done at a glance.

I recommend looking at those five bullet points of the most important tasks of the day and prioritizing them. Write down the order that you will handle each task. This helps you to keep organized and reduces your anxiety about what you still have to do.

Don’t Ignore Problems

Many executives at Enron were implicit in its downfall. This company was found guilty of fraud and conspiracy because executives failed to take action on early warnings.

Maybe they didn’t understand the concerns and didn’t ask enough questions. Maybe they thought it was someone else’s fire to put out. Perhaps they just chose to believe press clippings instead.

In any case, their failure to investigate dubious accounting practices didn’t turn out well.

Successful leaders don’t look for ways around a problem or depend on others to make it go away. They approach problems through a lens of opportunity.

It is a human tendency to avoid difficult situations, but the more we avoid them, the more difficult they get.

A problem is an opportunity for improvement. It might even be a blessing in disguise that exposes more serious issues.

Addressing problems thoroughly and quickly could avert catastrophe — consequently, avoid bigger stressors.

Plan Ahead

Uncertainty is a major source of stress.

Cool-headed business leaders are unworried about the future and unfazed by interruptions because they’ve taken the time to plan it.

For every goal, create a strategy. For every strategy, create a timeline. For every timeline, prioritize tasks.

You can work out the logistics or funding you’ll need in advance. You can assemble talent for specific projects. You can reduce the risk of failure by anticipating problems. Planning sheds light on the long-term impact of day-to-day decisions.

With a plan in place, you can track progress and hold yourself and others accountable.

Take Quality Time Off

Successful leaders know that downtime has mental, physical and emotional benefits.

You may think that taking a vacation or sleeping in now and then is a waste of time. On the contrary, that’s when your brain organizes random thoughts, prioritizes information and sparks creativity. That’s when you gain a much-needed perspective.

A well-deserved vacation with your family eases built-up tension and strengthens relationships. Solitude and reflection work wonders for the mind, body, and spirit.

If nothing else, your absence will give your employees a chance to trust their own instincts and make decisions.

Take Care of Employees

Stress affects everyone from CEOs to blue-collar workers, so jobs are obviously not the issue. Everyone is affected by unique stressors.

For example, paperwork is more stressful for many police officers than chasing criminals.

Great executives reduce stress before it happens by placing people in the right jobs.

If stress levels are affecting productivity and morale, try moving employees to positions they’re better suited for. Give multitaskers more responsibility. Give people who work best alone a more secluded workspace. Having your employees wisely positioned will highly increase their level of engagement and attachment to the company.

Feeling overlooked, undervalued or inadequate is another huge source of stress.

In a recent survey, 74% of employees said they weren’t reaching their full potential because they lacked training. Make sure that you equip workers for success with adequate training and resources.

Make employees feel appreciated by offering a generous benefits package. Build relationships by giving constructive feedback. Be quick to publicly acknowledge the hard work and good decisions. Offer spontaneous rewards. Be generous with time off.

Most of all, teach your workers to handle stress by setting a good example. Knowing you are addressing your employees’ challenges will make you feel better about your responsibilities. Furthermore, you will be ensuring they are contributing to their full potential. This will make your job easier and more fulfilling.

Look at the Big Picture

Problems often seem insurmountable until you consider the grand scheme of things. It’s doubtful that Mark Zuckerberg, Karl Albrecht or Tim Cook will spend their last days regretting bad business decisions.

When you feel the most stressed, take a step back. Focus on what really matters.

Some of the most successful executives are the most grounded. They express their gratitude by loving their families, giving to charity, bettering their communities or practicing their faith. None of those activities is stressful, in fact, they are stress reducers.

The more you express gratitude about your current situation, the more you will attract positive things your way. Gratitude is a huge stress buster. It is also a daily exercise.

The Bottom Line

Work-related stress is contagious. It trickles down to personal relationships. If not addressed, stress becomes chronic and affects sleep, diet and energy levels. It is strongly linked to physical and mental issues.

You don’t have to wake up every day feeling like you have to conquer the world. You can do it one step at a time, focusing your energy on what really matters.

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